My Journey to the Neuro ICU + Its Impact

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I know we have done a lot of recipe posts recently but whenever I take it back to nutrition, I’m in my happiest place. Plus I wanted to give you some background info about me before my next post about nutrition + the brain. Neuro health is near and dear to my heart because- these are the patients I see!! I have the Neuro ICU and then I also have the Neuro stepdown unit (where they go when they leave the ICU). I also have the psych lockdown unit- but that’s a story for another day. Just for some background info…I started my career in dietetics in a 1200 bed hospital in Orlando almost four years ago. There, I started on general floors and after about 4 months-ish I moved to the VTICU and cardiac floors. I looooooooved these patients. The VTICU (vascular thoracic ICU- is where patients go after vascular or thoracic surgeries- CABGs etc.) is special because it’s also where I met my husband. At the time he was a med student doing an ICU rotation. I love the ICU setting for so many reasons. Typically, for nutrition, our interventions are clear cut in the ICU. This is because whether the Neuro ICU or VTICU, the patients are, a lot of the time, intubated (need ventilator support to breathe) and a lot of the times on enteral nutrition (aka tube feeding). Therefore, in the ICU it’s more math than diet education. We take into account- labs, disease state, height/weight history, medications, and nutritional needs when deciding what form of nutrition intervention these patients need. I know a lot of people hear dietitian and they think we are throwing around diet plans like little fairies- not the case. It just depends which unit you’re on. So moving on- I left the hospital in Orlando and we moved to northern Florida for my husband’s residency. I started on general floors again, moved to Oncology/BMT unit and then finally moved back to the ICU – but this time, Neuro! My heart has always been in the ICU. As a dietitian, sometimes you have to wait until certain units become available. So the Neuro ICU was the first ICU available and actually – I wasn’t that excited about it. Fast forward and it is by far my favorite patient population. 

The Neuro ICU, and the hospital we’re currently at in general, has had a major impact on honestly even my daily life- both positive and negative. The negative- I’m finally now spinning as a positive though! It took me awhile but I was able to pinpoint why the current hospital I’m at was giving me SO much more anxiety than the previous hospital I worked at. I loved my first job but I did my job, went home and didn’t really think much of it. The patients I have now, have had SUCH an impact. I finally realized it came down to the type of patients I was now seeing. The hospital I currently work for is a Level One Trauma and we also have a Burn ICU. While my first hospital was gigantic – it did not have trauma. Everything but! I see a lot of patients with traumatic brain injuries from the worst of the worst kinds of accidents. It has in turn, increased my anxiety outside of the hospital. Driving, flying…you name it. I’ve had a pretty challenging time separating patients from personal life. But I’ve been working hard to spin it into something positive. I feel so thankful for my health and my family’s health every. single. day. There is something about seeing an innocent 20 year old, in the hospital for a TBI from a car accident, and they’re mind just isn’t there anymore. Seeing how this impacts their parents and their families… I mean it’s very, very heartbreaking. Not to say that patients in the hospital with other disease states don’t hit home too but for some reason or another Neuro has left a tad more of a mark.

Every morning I come to work- my office is on the same floor as the Neuro ICU- and I see these families that literally sleep there for weeks and don’t go home. We have showers in the waiting room and a lot of them will bring pillows, their kids, blankets, sleeping bags and just stay there…waiting on their family or friend to get better and sometimes they don’t/sometimes they do. There isn’t a morning though that seeing that doesn’t effect me. In the best of ways.

Patrick and I always say we wish we could give people just a glimpse into what disease and trauma looks like- people would change their lives immediately. Health is important – THE most important thing. Losing it, is not fun- to put it lightly. It’s agonizing. A lot of these families and patients (if not all) wish they had the opportunity, that most of you reading this blog have- to change your life for the healthier and be thankful for every day. We are all taught to worry about other things- our hair, our cars, our homes- really none of that is important in comparison to your health.

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Ok I went deep with you all and now we can get on to Neuro Health!!! But I had to share my experience in Critical Care + the Hospital setting. If it motivates even one person- totally worth it!

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-The Neilan Family-

Secret Romano Marinara [red sauce]

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Photo: Francesco Tonelli for The New York Times

I am 100% Italian as far back as we know. Maiden name- Romano. My dad’s side- Sicilian and my mom’s from Northern Italy. My mom knows. how. to cook. and my dad – is the pickiest Italian man on the planet (but knows good food!). You can trust this sauce is delish, authentic + honestly, quite simple. We make it in large batches and throw it in the freezer, this way every time we cook we don’t have to make a fresh batch. It would be a sin in our house to use sauce from a jar- I think my parents would disown me entirely so I’ve learned freezing in batches DEFINITELY helps. There are variations of this sauce- she has a meat sauce, fish sauce, vodka sauce- it goes on and on but for today- lets start with the basic marinara sauce. 

ingredients 

  • 3-4 Tbsp of olive oil [enough to coat bottom of the pot]
  • 3-4 Cloves fresh galic, chopped
  • 1-2 Tbsp of sugar [we typically use 1.5 Tbsp sugar but you can sub 2 tsp Truvia]
  • 1 20oz can of Progresso whole tomatoes w/ basil [you can also use fresh tomatoes if you’re really feeling adventurous- we mostly use Progresso]
  • 1 Tsp dried or fresh basil

recipe

  1. Pour tomatoes into blender and blend just for a few seconds, until finely chopped
  2. In a medium sized saucepan, saute garlic and oil. Do not let garlic brown.
  3. Pour in blended tomatoes and add remaining ingredients.
  4. Salt and Pepper to taste
  5. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20-30 min

That’s it! Kinda silly that people are terrified of making homemade sauce when you see how easy it is! I think the biggest mistake is too many ingredients. Over seasoning is a real thing folks + sometimes simple is best.

-The Romano + Neilan Family-

Patrick’s Eggplant Parm

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Photo: Blair, The Seasoned Mom

There are three foods I always request on my birthday: stuffed artichoke, eggplant Parmesan + rice krispy treats. This year my husband surprised me and made eggplant parm when I came home from work on my birthday (which recently passed beginning of January- shout out to fellow Capricorns!). I’m just as surprised as you are that Patrick doubles as a chef! Doctor by day, chef by night- who knew! BUT I will say- I was definitely leery when he said he was going to attempt eggplant parm- I don’t even order it in restaurants- simply because, I grew up in a Sicilian home + my mom’s is just the best. I’ve tried eggplant parm from “great” Italian restaurants and they have always been sub-par. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I LOVED the eggplant parm recipe Patrick found. I love Patrick but I’d never tell him something tasted amazing if it didn’t- I’m Italian aka I can’t lie about food. It is VERY different from the Romano (maiden name) eggplant parm I grew up on- but I truly love both. I will also share the Romano eggplant parm recipe with you guys soon- that one is more like an eggplant lasagna- cut an entirely different style than Patrick’s. 

From the Doctor + Dietitian: Eggplants are high in fiber; therefore, great for GI and cardiovascular health. This is because foods high in fiber have been shown to lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and in turn, decreasing heart attacks and strokes. Eggplants are a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, niacin, magnesium, copper, fiber, folic acid, potassium, manganese, thiamine, and phosphorous. Because eggplants are high in calcium and iron, they are considered great for bone health and preventing anemia.

Fun Fact: Did you know eggplants are technically considered a fruit?! They are related to tomatoes and some even consider eggplant a type of berry! Because of the low sugar/nutrient content, in our minds- it’s still a veggie!

Before we get to the recipe, Patrick followed the recipe [below] exactly; however, we will add some vegan friendly modifications. Feel free to modify amount of cheese/type of cheese. Lastly, you can use your favorite tomato sauce or sauce from a jar- Patrick used my family’s Red Sauce Recipe- which I highly recommend- it’s straight from my Italian ancestors and super simple! It will make this dish a million times better too. Of note, if you’re going to make your own red sauce- we recommend doing this before you get started on the eggplant recipe so it’s ready to go!

ingredients 

Eggplant:

  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten [ok to modify to cashew milk]
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 cups whole-wheat panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 (1-pound) eggplants, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • Cooking spray

Filling:

  • 1/2 cup torn fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (16-ounce) container part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten [sub with flax egg – 1 tbsp ground flax and 3 tbsp water mixed]
  • Remaining ingredients:
  • 1 (24-ounce) jar premium pasta sauce [we did not use this, see red sauce recipe]
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced mozzarella cheese
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) finely grated fontina cheese
recipe
  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. To make eggplant, combine 2 eggs and 1 tablespoon water in a shallow dish. Combine panko and 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano in a second shallow dish. Dip eggplant in egg mixture; dredge in panko mixture, pressing gently to adhere and shaking off excess. Place eggplant 1 inch apart on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until golden, turning once and rotating baking sheets after 15 minutes.
  3. To make filling, combine basil and next 6 ingredients (through egg).
  4. To assemble, spoon 1/2 cup pasta sauce in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish coated with cooking spray. Layer half of eggplant slices over pasta sauce. Sprinkle eggplant with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Top with about 3/4 cup pasta sauce; spread half of ricotta mixture over sauce, and top with a third of mozzarella and 1/4 cup fontina. Repeat layers once, ending with about 1 cup pasta sauce. Cover tightly with aluminum foil coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 35 minutes. Remove foil; top with remaining third of mozzarella and 1/4 cup fontina. Bake at 375° for 10 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and cheese melts; cool 10 minutes.

Recipe: Cooking Light

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We hope you enjoy this delish Italian Delicacy!

-The Neilan Family-

[Vegan] Dreamy Banana Date Bar

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Photo: Running on Real Food

We have added another delicious nutrient dense snack to the weekly rotations! We forgot about our bananas [again] – cue this delish recipe. Patrick was a huge fan and was eating them faster than I could whip them up. My favorite part about this bar is (well 2 things). 1. THE TEXTURE- it is so amazing. I can’t even begin to describe, which is why you MUST try for yourself. We love that there are so many different textures in one bar- you’ve got the overripe bananas for smoothness, coconut flakes for crunch, dates for a little gooey-ness, and oats to keep it all together! Then to top it all off- a very thin layer of dark chocolate- YUM! 2. We love that the ingredients are simple + healthy.

Tip: We doubled this recipe because we had 4 overripe bananas, and LOVED how they came out on thicker side. Even though they look dense, they’re actually a bit on the lighter side! One bar is about 120 calories! Low in protein (about 3g) without added protein powder. We added a combination of whey + plant based protein powder!

Recipe from: Running On Real Food

ingredients

  • 2.5 cups (275 g) quick oats
  • 2 tbsp ground flax
  • 1/3 cup (30 g) unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 2 overripe bananas (200 g) sliced in half lengthwise then chopped up
  • 5 medjool dates (68 g without pits), finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 packets stevia, optional, to taste
  • Consider protein powder per preference (ours is unflavored- I think if you have flavored protein powder that might add a bit of a weird taste)
  • Optional [topping]:
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa powder (use 4 tbsp of dairy free chocolate chips to keep it vegan)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

recipe for bars

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Add the oats, flax, coconut and cinnamon to a bowl and stir to combine.
  3. Mix in the vanilla and almond milk.
  4. Fold in the chopped banana and dates. (Taste the dough and add a bit of stevia if you want them a little sweeter.)
  5. Bake for 30 minutes.
  6. Remove the bars from the oven, melt the chocolate if using and spread over the bars.
  7. Let cool before slicing into 16 bars.
  8. Store in the fridge- or in the freezer [We wrap one bar individually in tin foil and whip them out in the morning before work!]

recipe for chocolate topping

Melt the coconut oil then gently stir in the the cocoa powder and maple syrup. Spread the mixture over the bars once they come out of the over. This will harden into chocolate ganache after chilled in the fridge.

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Photo: Running on Real Food

We hope you enjoy friends- we sure are!

-The Neilan Family-

Healthy PB + J Cookie: Complete with Chia Seed Jam Recipe

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As I type this, Patrick is texting me how amazing they are from work. I wish you all could hear my excitement because the love that I have for this little treat, is just beyond typed words. You all must give this recipe a try! It only took me about 30min to throw everything together- tops! The recipe is from the Laura Lea Balanced Cookbook and SO incredible- especially when it’s hot out of the oven with fresh chia seed jam, forgettaboutit (as my Italian fam would say)! 

Why we started making this recipe? I mentioned this on my Instagram, DoctorMeetsDietitian, so feel free to skim over + head straight to the recipe if you previously read this. Anyway, I am always on the hunt for a nutrient/calorie dense snack- especially for Patrick. He often times forgets to eat when he is at work between lunch and coming home for dinner (especially in the ICU). When you work 12+ hour work days/6 days a week- it’s just too much to go from noon to sometimes 8pm or later. Patrick LOVES LOVE LOVES the carrot cake bliss ball recipe (link: https://doctormeetsdietitian.com/2017/11/20/bliss-balls-aka-carrot-cake-energy-bites/) but every so often, I do like to switch it up- cue the healthy PB+ J Cookie recipe.

ingredients

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 (packed) cup pitted Medjool dates (*buy pit-in version and remove pits)
  • 3/4 cup unsalted, unsweetened peanut butter (sub almond, cashew or sunbutter or tahini)
  • 2 large eggs, whisked (sub flax or chia eggs for vegan)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
recipe
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a food processor, combine oats and dates and pulse until combined into a chunky mixture, approximately 10 pulses.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and pulse until ingredients are incorporated and you can only see tiny pieces of dates and oats. Carefully remove blade from processor.
  4. Place a bowl of room temperature water between the baking sheet and food processor. Dampen your hands in the water to prevent sticking, and roll dough into 2 1/2 inch balls. Place balls on baking sheet, leaving at least 2 inches between each.
  5. Wet a fork and use the tines to gently press down on each cookie until it is approximately 1 inch thick. You can turn the tines in opposing directions to create a cross-hatched look.
  6. Bake for 11 minutes, then allow to cool.

Chia Seed Jam

  • 2 heaping cups of frozen mixed berries (or fruit of your choice)
  • 3/4 C water
  • 1-2 Tbsp of Pure Maple Syrup
  • 4 Tbsp Chia Seeds (we tend to add a lot. you can start with 1 tbsp and add to taste)
  1. Place berries and water in a small sauce pot- turn on medium heat- and bring to boil. Stirring occasionally.
  2. Use a fork or spoon to help the fruit breakdown
  3. Once liquid has been absorbed and the jam is your desired consistency [we prefer some clumps of fruit], remove pan from heat and add maple syrup + chia seeds.
  4. Whisk for about 5 minutes to make sure chia seeds don’t clump up on you

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Enjoy hot [like I prefer] -or- chilled [like Patrick prefers]! Both, so delicious!!

-The Neilan Family-

PS: we wrap them in tin foil (by twos) + throw them in the freezer- so it’s super easy to whip them out in the morning and send Patrick on his way to the hospital!

Autumn Glow Smoothie [pumpkin, sweet potato + cauliflower]

pumpkin-oatmeal-smoothie-h1_largeI know it’s winter, but we have this smoothie year round because it is oh- so-yummy + full of all kinds of fiber, antioxidant goodness! Like we mentioned in the Matcha smoothie recipe, feel free to turn it into a smoothie bowl + top with granola/oats/seeds/pecans/honey/ +/or chia seeds!

recipe

  • 1 cup frozen sweet potatoes* OR 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup frozen cauliflower florets
  • 1 cup almond milk (or milk of your choice)
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter (omit depending on appetite- when we’re hungry enough, we’ll add the almond or peanut butter)
  • 1 scoop of your favorite protein powder (optional- again, depends on hunger)
  • 2 tablespoons honey or pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • Ice to taste

*For the sweet potatoes, I keep diced + peeled sweet potatoes in our freezer for easy smoothie use!

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Photo: LL Balanced 

P.S. One of my favorite things to add to smoothies (usually when I’m turning them into a meal) is rolled oats! SOO yummy and thickens it right up! If you decide to add oats, start with 1/4 C.

-The Neilan Family-

Fluffiest Popovers + Simple Homemade Jam Recipe

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Some things I don’t kid about- and one of those things is popovers. Definitely in my top 5 favorite foods. My love of these guys is quite unreal. If you haven’t had one- envision bread- but a hundred million times better. Fluffy, light and incredible. I actually always pass on bread – because unless is extraordinarily made/incredible – I’m not into it. I find most bread boring. BUT POPOVERS- total game changer. 

Background where my story began with popovers: In high school I would go to this super fancy restaurant with a friend (every day) and order a garden salad and multiple baskets of popovers (which came free on the table). Looking back those waiters most definitely hated us. 15-18 year old girls (yes this continued for years), coming in every day and ordering only a garden salad at a fancy restaurant- wowzers. But how nice were they to keep bringing the popovers endlessly without complaining?! Shout out to Luigino’s in Orlando, FL if you all are ever around that neck of the woods.

Anyway, now that I’m older I have realized just how easy they are to make. I recently ordered a popover pan on amazon. I highly recommend purchasing if you plan on making popovers. A cupcake tin does not work as well- they don’t expand and they’re not nearly as fluffy. So for fifteen dollars, I think it’s absolutely worth it. Here is the one I purchased- https://www.amazon.com/Chicago-Metallic-Professional-Popover-15-5-Inch/dp/B003YL3DWO/ref=sr_1_4?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1513207241&sr=1-4&keywords=popover+pan.

We make popovers all the time- with soup or as an appetizer before dinner and they are soooo yummy. I love them with a little butter and homemade strawberry or blueberry jam. As you become a popover pro, you can start adding spices, cheese, chocolate, nuts and jam to the center of the popover- then bake. But I am a simple girl and like them the original way best! But play with it and see what you like!

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Popover Recipe from Neiman Marcus Cookbook

ingredients 

  • 3 1/2 Cups of Milk – we used almond
  • 4 Cups of All Purpose Flour- we used half whole wheat and half regular flour
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon of Baking Powder
  • 6 Large Eggs at room temperature

Of note: the key to the best popovers is having the eggs and milk warm before mixing

recipe

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  2. Place milk in bowl and microwave on high for 2 minutes
  3. Sift flour, salt and baking powder together in large mixing bowl
  4. Crack the eggs into the work bowl of an electric mixer – beat on medium for about 3 minutes until pale and foamy
  5. Turn down the mixer to low and add warm milk
  6. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes
  7. Turn the machine off and let the batter rest for 1 hr at room temperature (I know this is annoying but it is worth the wait- if you can’t wait continue without letting it sit but if you can- complete this step!)
  8. Spray popover pan generously with nonstick spray
  9. Fill the popover cups almost to the top with batter
  10. Bake popovers for 15 minutes
  11. Turn oven temperature down to 375 and bake for an additional 30-35 minutes or until popovers are a deep golden brown on the outside
  12. Immediately serve hot with butter and homemade jam

simple jam recipe

  • 3 cups of blueberries or strawberries (fruit of your choice)
  • 1 cup of sugar (or 1/3 cup + 1.5 Tablespoons of Truvia)
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice

Place all ingredients in small pot and heat on stove for about 20-30 minutes (low/medium heat) + mix occasionally. Should become smooth/jelly like consistency. If you like your jam lumpy like me – take off a bit earlier. 

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I hope you enjoy this delicacy as much as we do! When Patrick tried a popover for the first time he was thoroughly impressed! Who doesn’t love the delicious light/airiness of a yummy hot popover?! If you all try this recipe, please let us know what you think! 

-The Neilan Family-

P.S. Don’t forget to order your popover tin

Coziest Lentil Soup Recipe

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This recipe is straight from my mom- aka the greatest Italian chef of all time- without any modifications. Because well, sometimes…you cannot modify perfection. It has always been one of my favorite recipes of hers and it’s so simple. Now that I’m older and cooking for myself, I can totally see why she was so excited when I’d ask for Lentil Soup for dinner- it’s so easy!! Busy after work? Throw everything into a pot to boil and leave it. As Patrick would say, Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

From the Dietitian: Let’s just be frank- this soup is awesome for regularity. It’s got insoluble fiber – which helps prevent constipation and other digestive disorders (IBS and Diverticulosis). Lets talk about the difference between insoluble and soluble fiber- because a lot of people don’t know or forget! If you’re eating a meal- may want to revisit this page at a later time because we are going to get straight into poop talk. Yep – that’s right. Easiest way to say it. So soluble fiber (found in beans, peas, oats, barley, fruits and avocados) is sticky and soft- it acts almost like a gel, in a sense, so that things can slide around the GI tract more easily. The beautiful thing about soluble fiber is that it binds to substances like cholesterol and sugar- preventing or slowing down absorption in the blood- which is super cool and amazing if you ask me. Soluble fiber increases good bacteria in the gut; furthermore, improving immunity, anti-inflammatory effects and even improved mood per studies that have been done. Soluble fiber also is great for weight management -as we all know- because it helps you feel fuller longer…win win! Now for insoluble fiber– think roughage. Insoluble fiber is found in whole grains, nuts, fruits and veggies (mostly in the skin, stalks, and seeds). Insoluble fiber cannot dissolve in water; therefore, it cannot be broken down in the gut and cannot enter the bloodstream. Because of this, it adds bulk to the digestive system- preventing constipation. Which we all want/love.

From the Doctor: I work in internal medicine. In the future, the plan is to work in Pulmonary Critical Care, but for now it’s internal medicine; therefore, dealing with GI issues/disorders/diseases- is absolutely in my wheel house in the internal med world. You would be surprised how many issues stem from poor GI motility/function.

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that over a nine-year period, consuming more dietary fiber lowered the risk of death from any cause. People who ate the most fiber (about 25 grams a day for women and 30 grams for men) were 22% less likely to die compared to those who consumed the least fiber (10 grams per day for women and 13 grams for men). The effect was even stronger when researchers looked at deaths from heart disease, infectious diseases, and respiratory diseases; people with high-fiber diets had as much as a 50% or greater reduction in risk.

Besides digestive health, fiber helps stabilize sugar. Like the wonderful dietitian mentioned a bit earlier, soluble fiber traps carbohydrates, slowing down digestion and stabilizing blood sugar levels. Meaning, increasing fiber intake is wonderful for people with diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia.

Fiber and cholesterol. Just to mention once more, lentils help reduce blood cholesterol because lentils are high in soluble fiber.Canadian researchers examined 26 studies conducted between both the US and Canada that included a total of more than 1,000 people. Their findings showed that including a daily serving of legumes – beans, chickpeas, lentils and peas- was linked to a reduction in low-density lipoprotein (LDL aka bad cholesterol) by 5%.

One of the last things I want to touch on, is fiber and heart health. Several studies have linked consuming high fiber foods (like lentils) with decreasing you risk of heart disease. Lentils are a great source of magnesium and folate- both awesome for heart health too. Folate lowers your homocysteine levels, a serious risk factor for heart disease, and magnesium improves blood flow, oxygen and nutrients in the body. There has been a major link between low magnesium levels + heart disease folks…so eat your lentils!

ingredients 

  • 4 Carrots – chopped
  • 4 Stalks of Celery – chopped
  • 4 Cloves are Fresh Garlic – chopped
  • 2 Cups of Lentils
  • 1 Yellow Onion- chopped
  • 2 qt Low Sodium Vegetable Broth
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Pinch of Thyme (optional)
  • Pinch of Cumin (optional)
  • Red Pepper (optional)
  • Locatelli Parmesan Cheese (optional)

Of Note: Occasionally, I have modified Mama Romano’s Recipe and added 2 Cups of Spinach or Kale to the recipe.

recipe

  1. Add onion, carrots, celery, garlic, lentils, cumin and olive oil to large pot -or dutch oven-, turn on medium heat. Saute so that the olive oil is coating all of the ingredients
  2. Empty Broth into pot (as mentioned above, add spinach/kale here if you would like to add greens)
  3. Add pinch of thyme and salt and pepper to taste
  4. Simmer for about 45 min. Every so often, stir soup and add water so that soup remains at the same level as when you started. Lentils should be tender. (I have had to keep soup on for up to an hour to wait for lentils to soften- by the end I had probably added 1 1/2 Cup water)!

We add red pepper and Parmesan cheese on top (Locatelli Romano Cheese- the absolute best and the only kind my family and I use).

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Now go cozy up with a Hallmark Christmas Movie, Soup and Relax!

-The Neilan Family-

Kindness + Cortisol: Why it Pays to be Positive

I love getting older, with every year- I understand health a little bit better (or so I like to think). For us, nutrition + health is not only about how we eat and exercise. We really try to keep a healthy mind aka we like to avoid stress/negativity as much as we can.  Which, in the world we live in, can definitely be a struggle. Although the type A in me would positively LOVE to control any and all things- it’s just not possible. But we can control what we let upset us. By 28 years old (and Patrick 30) we both really only get stressed out (or try to only get stressed out) about the things that matter – family, friends, our health, etc. One thing that really, truly makes us feel so good- is just plain old being nice and trying to keep our mood positive about ourselves and others. Which takes us to (plot twist!) Cortisol. 

From the Doctor: When you feel stress (anger, jealousy, fear, etc) your hypothalamus tells your adrenal glands to release hormones (adrenaline and cortisol). Cortisol increases glucose in your bloodstream to enhance your brains use of glucose (possibly increasing risk for type 2 diabetes).  Your body is in survival mode and in turn suppressing vital functions in the body; such as: the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes.

Typically once you no longer feel threatened (or stressed) these levels stabilize; however, when you are exposed to “long-term activation of the stress-response system” aka overexposure of cortisol for a prolonged period of time, this can cause inflammation and also put your health at risk for: anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain and memory/concentration impairment.

From the Dietitian: Obviously we can’t avoid stress all together. Cortisol is also necessary for vital body functions so you don’t want to do away with it completely by any means. The goal is to only stress – when it’s necessary and keep negativity as far away as possible. It takes a lot to really get under my skin (or Patrick’s) and that’s something that is purposeful. We’re by no means perfect and we all have our moods because at the end of the day we’re still human BUT we try to find the positive in people, ourselves and in situations. Not just to benefit others but also ourselves. For me, I need something more tangible than breathing exercises (works great for some) to help settle stress sometimes and showing kindness to other people has really gone a long way with keeping my anxiety/stress at bay and my environment positive. I’ve definitely been told “you’re too nice” “too bubbly” but I think people don’t realize it’s for my own benefit too. Letting everything get to you, in our opinion, is just not healthy and there are so many real things to worry about in life when they come up (health of a family member for example) to stress about the little things. Being rude or nasty or negative only takes more energy – so it pays to be kind, positive & just relax!

Happy Monday + Keep those Cortisol levels at bay!

Where All The Forgotten Bananas Go: Cinnamon Banana Bread

43b81d373132cd35baf511d944c58c9f--banana-holder-color-clubOops forgot about our bananas & now they’re entirely too ripe to eat – aka Banana Bread Time in the Neilan Household. So yummy and perfect for fall weather! But before we get into the recipe lets delve into some science. 

From the Dietitian: Come spend a day with us dietitians in the office – and you will hear LOTS about bananas. As most of you are likely aware, bananas are a great source of fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and antioxidants. But we have learned, through many discussions in the office, people are very particular about the kind of banana they prefer! I, myself, like a banana with some green on it and 0 spots.  But the point I’m getting to is THIS! There is actually some science behind it!

From the Doctor: Benefits of unripe bananas: Low sugar content. Good for people with diabetes or trying to watch their sugar intake. Unripe bananas also have more starch- so they will keep you fuller longer. They contain more probiotics (aka great for gut health).  Benefits of ripe bananas: There was a study done in China, that showed that the spots on bananas indicate (TNF) tumor necrosis factor and could act as an immunity agent, fighting against abnormal cells in the body. Ripe bananas are easier for the body to digest than unripe and also contain more antioxidants.

Bananas could help with anxiety and depression because they actually contain tryptophan, which the body converts to serotonin! For someone without chronic disease- having a banana several times a week may reduce the risk of kidney disease by up to 50%. Bananas are also known to be good for cardiovascular and digestive health.

So, to sum it all up, no matter the banana you prefer- you’re getting all kinds of health benefits! Now for the recipe!

for the banana bread

  • 3 Very Ripe Bananas (we used 4 because I didn’t want to throw the last guy out)
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 3/4 C Quick Oats
  • 3/4 C All Purpose Flour
  • 3/4 C Chickpea Flour
  • 1/4 Tsp Baking Soda
  • 2 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 2/3 C Sugar (We used 1/4 C and 2 Tsp of Truvia)
  • 1/4 C Canola Oil (We used 1/4 C Apple Sauce)
  • 1/3 C Milk (We used cashew)
  • 1/2 C Chopped Walnuts

for the topping

  • 1/2 C Sugar (We used 3 1/2 Tbsp of Truvia)
  • 2 Tbsp of Whole Wheat All Purpose Flour
  • 2 Tbsp Softened Butter
  • 1 Tsp of Cinnamon

the recipe

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Prep 9 x 5 loaf pan with non-stick spray (We used olive oil spray or you can just use butter)
  3. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, oats, sugar and salt
  4. In a large bowl, combine eggs, milk, oil, and mashed bananas (mix with your hands- I guess I’m a weirdo because I love this part!!)
  5. Then mix dry ingredients with wet ingredients (with hands or a spoon)
  6. Time for the topping mixture! In a separate bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon and butter- mix with hands until it looks almost like wet sand
  7. Pour half of the banana bread mixture in your loaf pan- sprinkle half of the cinnamon mixture on top- then pour the rest of your batter in and sprinkle the other half of cinnamon mixture on top!
  8. Bake for 50-60 min

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Slice yourself a piece in the morning with some cashew or almond butter to add protein & make it a little bit more filling! Or, for a late-night snack, warm it up 5-10 seconds and have a scoop of vanilla halo top ice cream!